The WHO Panel of Inquiry has recorded 83 cases of possible exploitation of its staff between 2018 and 2020, when the organization was operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during the Ebola epidemic. The allegations of abuse were known but could not be addressed.
According to a study by the World Health Organization (WHO), 21 workers of the organization may have been sexually abused in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between 2018 and 2020 as the WHO tried to curb the country’s Ebola epidemic.
A total of 83 accused of exploitation have been identified by the organization. In 21 of these cases, the organisation’s investigative panel obtained assurance that those accused of exploitation were WHO employees during the Ebola operation.
The investigation panel interviewed dozens of women who, among other things, had been offered jobs against sex or who had been raped.
Those accused of sexual exploitation include both people employed by the WHO in the Congo and its international staff.
Director of the Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last October, ordered a panel to investigate allegations that numerous health workers had sexually harassed women in the fight against the Ebola epidemic in 2018.
Ghebreyesus apologized for the incident at a news conference on Tuesday.
– First I want to say to the victims and survivors … I’m sorry, Ghebreyesus says.
– My main priority is not to forgive the perpetrators, but to hold them accountable.
According to diplomatic sources from the news agency AP, four people have been laid off due to the incident and two have been laid off. The information is based on a closed diplomatic meeting held at the WHO in Geneva on Tuesday.
AP: The allegations were known
The WHO panel of experts released its findings today, months after the news agency AP had reported numerous allegations of exploitation.
According to the findings released by the AP in May, the WHO leadership in charge of Ebola operations in Congo was aware of the allegations of exploitation in 2019.
According to investigations by the news agency AP, the WHO monitors Ebola activities in the Congo Michel Yaolle several suspicions of abuse were reported. Yao was subsequently promoted to WHO Director of Ebola Operations in Guinea.
In the second case, a WHO doctor Jean-Paul Ngadu and two other WHO officials wrote an agreement, according to the AP, promising to buy land for the young woman suspected of being pregnant by Ngadu. According to Ngadu, he was pressured to sign an agreement to protect the reputation of the WHO.
According to information leaked to the AP from UN meetings, he is the director of the WHO Health Crisis Program Michael Ryan has acknowledged that suspicions of exploitation in the Congo are likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.
The WHO’s own investigation team says in its report that the WHO leadership was aware of the allegations six weeks earlier – in early May 2019 – than it claimed to have learned of them.
In its report, the investigation team concludes that “individuals’ indifference may have led to professional misconduct.” In addition, the expert group found “clear structural failures and a lack of capacity to manage the risk of sexual abuse”.
After the AP published the results of its investigation, the WHO appointed an employee to oversee the prevention of sexual abuse. However, the supervisor does not have the authority to dismiss those who have been found guilty of exploitation.